Several primary elections are underway across Tennessee on Thursday as Republicans aim to flip a historically Democrat-held House seat after redrawing the state’s congressional map.
Also on the ballot Thursday are nominations for Tennessee governor. Incumbent GOP Gov. Bill Lee, who has served as the state’s 50th governor since 2019, is running unopposed in the Republican gubernatorial primary.
Despite not having a Democrat elected to statewide office in nearly 15 years, three candidates are facing each other in the Democratic gubernatorial primary race for a chance to lead the state. Those candidates are physician Jason Martin, Memphis Councilman JB Smiley Jr. and community advocate Cornita Atwater.
If you enter the election ring on Thursday.. Fundraising amounts for candidates The Democratic gubernatorial primary was very different. Martin raised nearly $650,000, Smiley a little more than $200,000 and Atwater a little less than $4,000.
Go to the Fox News Election Center for the latest primary results
Tennessee’s primary race to represent the state in Congress is underway, after the GOP-dominated Assembly split left-leaning Nashville into three congressional districts, potentially flipping the seat from a Democrat to a Republican.
After the split, incumbent Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Tenn., who has represented the state’s 5th Congressional District since 2003, announced he would not seek re-election because he felt there was no way he could win.
There are now nine GOP candidates in the running to represent the 5th District, including Maury County Mayor Andy Ogles, former state House Speaker Beth Harwell, retired Tennessee National Guard Brig. Gen. Kurt Winstead, Jenny Batchelor, Natisha Brooks, Jeff Beerlein and write-in candidate Robbie Starbuck.
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State Sen. Heidi Campbell of Nashville is the only candidate running in the Democratic primary.
Five GOP legislators from Tennessee’s nine-member congressional delegation are running unopposed in the primary race: 1st District Rep. Diana Harshbarger, 2nd District Rep. Tim Burchett, 4th District Rep. Scott Desjarlais, 6th District Rep. John Ross, and 7th District Rep. Mark Green.
Representative Steve Cohen, the current Democrat representing the state’s 9th Congressional District since 2007, is the GOP Representative for the 8th District. David Kustoff and 3rd District GOP Rep. Chuck Fleishman faced off in the primary.
Kustoff’s challengers include business owner Danny Bridger Jr., Air Force veteran Dean Clouse and Marine Corps veteran Bob Hendry. Fleischman faces a challenge from Navy veteran Sandy Casey.
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In the 7th District, Green faces a long-shot challenge from left-leaning Democrat Odessa Kelly, who is running unopposed in her primary.
Kelly is backed by the Justice Democrats, a “squad” member of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, DN.Y. A left-wing organization with support and dedicated to electing progressive Democrats to Congress. Kelly’s campaign has called for economic inequality, criminal justice reform, “medical care for all,” support for the Green New Deal, and more restrictive gun control laws. Some suggest she could be the newest member of the “squad” if she pulls off an unlikely win in the deep red district.
In the state’s Republican-majority legislature, all 99 state House seats in Tennessee are up for election this year. There are 15 open seats, most of which are held by Republicans. Twenty-one seats have contested Republican primaries and nine contested Democratic primaries.
Some of the openings include the seat of disgraced former House Speaker Glenn Casada, who was ousted from the top job in 2019 due to a series of scandals. Former GOP state representative. Robin Smith resigned earlier this year after facing federal wire allegations that she ran a political consulting kickback scheme with Casada and his former chief of staff, none of whom have yet been charged.
State Rep. David Byrd is also not seeking re-election. Three women faced allegations of sexual misconduct when the Republican was a high school teacher and their basketball coach three decades ago. He was never charged, but two women alleged Byrd touched them inappropriately and a third said Byrd tried to.
Baird initially announced he would retire in 2020, but reversed course, arguing it was important to have an experienced lawmaker during the coronavirus pandemic.
After nearly three decades as a registered Democrat, longtime state Rep. John Mark Windle has filed to run as an independent.
In the Senate, 17 of the 33 seats are on the ballot, four with contested GOP primaries and two with contested Democratic races. Three departing senators left open seats: Republicans Brian Kelsey and Mike Bell and Democrat Brenda Gilmore. There’s Kelsey faces federal criminal charges on allegations that he violated federal campaign finance laws during his failed 2016 congressional campaign.
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All five seats on the Tennessee Supreme Court are up for eight-year retention elections in the August primary. The judges — Jeff Bivins, Sarah Campbell, Sharon Lee, Holly Kirby and Roger Page — are expected to clear the vote.
Polls in Tennessee close at 7 p.m. CT.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.